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The Secret World of Oil

3.51  ·  Rating Details ·  121 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
The oil industry provides the lifeblood of modern civilization, and bestselling books have been written about the industry and even individual companies in it, like ExxonMobil. But the modern oil industry is an amazingly shady meeting ground of fixers, gangsters, dictators, competing governments, and multinational corporations, and until now, no book has set out to tell th ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Verso (first published January 1st 2014)
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Feb 11, 2014 Joseph rated it liked it
Shelves: oil-coal-nuclear
The Secret World of Oil by Ken Silverstein is an insider’s look into the oil industry. Silverstein is a fellow of the Edmond J Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. He received the Overseas Press Club Award as a co-writer of “The Politics of Petroleum.” He has also written for the Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, Wallpaper, Washington Monthly, The Nation, Slate, and Salon.

Oil is that magical substance that you pump into your car as gasoline. You pay for that gas and the gas station get
Ayman Fadel
Feb 09, 2015 Ayman Fadel rated it really liked it

Note that the author of this book is not this Ken Silverstein, who writes in energy industry publications.

If you care about the poor or the environment, be prepared to vomit in your mouth at nearly every other page of this account of the oil and other resource extraction industries.

Ken Silverstein devotes a chapter to each of the following categories of players in this woeful tragedy: the fixers, the dictators, the traders, the gatekeepers, the flacks, the
Patrick F
Apr 21, 2015 Patrick F rated it really liked it
The seemingly tireless journalist, and former Washington editor of Harper's, Ken Silverstein has put out a book that is a rare look into the underbelly of the world of oil. In The Secret World of Oil (2014) Silverstein takes us through the world of middlemen, dictators, commodities traders, captured state governments like that off Louisiana; there is even a chapter on the former british prime minister-cum-PR hack Tony Blair. (This gives a lie to the idea that the Labour party in the U.K. is some ...more
Jennifer Boyce
May 23, 2014 Jennifer Boyce rated it really liked it
The Secret World of Oil provides a comprehensive look into the lesser talked about aspects of a corrupt, global oil industry. Even if you follow current events relating to oil, this book will give you information on aspects of the industry you likely have heard hardly anything about.

This book was fascinating. I had no idea that the oil industry was so corrupt and that it was just a fact of life that the corruption occurs, no one is really set to stop it. I also learned a lot about the environmen
Ken Silverstein's "The Secret World of Oil" offers a more even-keeled, oil industry-focused expose of corruption, hypocrisy and greed than Matt Taibbi's brutal takedown of the financial industry in "Griftopia." Where Griftopia's rage infected you and incited you to storm the ramparts a la the rebellious students in Les Miz, "The Secret World of Oil" causes you to shake your head in frustration.

Hundreds of times.

Silverstein walks through the various shady aspects of the oil industry, from the wea
Dec 13, 2014 Paul rated it it was amazing
This book provides a peek behind the curtain at the business part of the oil industry, still a major part of the world's economy.

If an oil company wants to start drilling in a "new" country, like Equatorial Guinea, or somewhere in Central Asia, all they have to do is go to the president or Prime Minister, buy an oil lease, and start drilling, right? Wrong; there are other officials who need to be consulted, and compensated, first (American law forbids bribery, but American oil companies know tha
B. Rule
Jan 02, 2015 B. Rule rated it did not like it
Shelves: haven-t-finished
I had to give up about a third of the way through this one. It is hopelessly unreadable. Silverstein attempted to write a muck-racking peek into the secret powers behind the oil industry, but he comes off as naive, unfocused, and lacking any common sense or judgment. Some of the things he describes are quite corrupt, but Silverstein blunts the force of his argument because he tries to put a nefarious gloss on every. single. detail. For instance, he accusingly cites an accountant's description of ...more
Biblio Files
Apr 03, 2014 Biblio Files rated it really liked it
It's been a long time since spies were considered potentially glamorous, dashing heroes who could negotiate a high class casino with ease and panache, then neutralize dangerous international criminals in the same day. James Bond isn't dead, but he's no longer a spy -- he's an oil fixer.

Journalist Ken Silverstein tells of the hidden world of oil fixing, in which agents of oil companies and of governments grease the way to the dictators and strongmen who run the countries who control much of the w
A Reader's Heaven
Sep 16, 2014 A Reader's Heaven rated it really liked it
(I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.)

"The Secret World of Oil" is a comprehensive insider's view of the world of oil: from the crude oil extraction to the price at the petrol pump, this book is a fascinating account of the how's, the why's and the wherefore's of an industry that most people are aware of, yet know very little about.

The layout of this book was extremely user-friendly. Each chapter was about a specific topic: the lobbyists, the tra
Bob Reutenauer
Nov 03, 2014 Bob Reutenauer rated it liked it
Silverstein is a top notch investigative journalist. Alexander Cockburn was his mentor, and the two co-edited Counterpunch a cutting edge lefty muckraking sheet during the 1990s. Silverstein is not anywhere near the kind of literary stylist of longform journalism that Cockburn was... but as a deep digging source developing fact-finder he is unmatched. His short book contains six powerfully packed chapter bios of a series of shady oil trade fixers, finders, flacks, financiers and a Bush to boot. ...more
Mar 23, 2014 Katarina rated it liked it
I was intrigued by this book and excited to read it.

I know there are a lot of secret deals, dirty politics and corruption, same as in some other industries.
I was interested in reading about the behind the scenes players and dealings, but I found the book to be quite biased. from the writing style, and some of the chosen wording, you can tell the author's low regard for either oil companies or specific players in the industry.
This was disappointing for me. I was looking for more of an investigati
I lost interest about two-thirds of the way thru and set this one aside a while ago. Coming back to it, I can't work up the energy to finish it off. The biggest detraction for me was, as i recall, the lack of an overarching narrative -- this is really just a collection of vignettes profiling various real-world characters who play different roles in the oil trade. The outrage generated wasn't/isn't enough to carry my thru.
Jun 28, 2015 Caitlin rated it it was ok
The corruption detailed is appalling, but somehow unsurprising. There wasn't a great narrative or cadence (chapters sectioned off by person/entity to be explored), and this made the intake of historical facts/'stories' difficult to string together. If this was my field, I may have been very interested, but I have put this away for now in favor of something more enjoyable/interesting to read.
Mike Coville
Aug 11, 2016 Mike Coville rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading this book. The Author does a great job of telling the story of the insiders in an intriguing way that made we want to know more. Ken Silverstein presents a lot of information without making it feel like a history textbook. I would put this in the same category as "Confessions of an economic hitman".

I recieved this book as a digital ARC from
Jun 12, 2014 Muireann rated it it was ok
It's pretty interesting in parts, but it's mostly just gossipy stuff, it lacks a cohesive articulation of the structure of the oil industry - the focus on individuals limits it's impact pretty drastically. It is also incredibly repetitive.
Jun 09, 2016 Leif rated it liked it
Often garrulous and unstructured, despite its merits: read it if you're fascinated with the behind-the-scenes trading world of oil and corruption only, in which case the scandalous (but almost lasciviously drawn) stories here will interest you.
Jul 15, 2014 A.J. rated it really liked it
Shelves: current-events
A superb, quick and interesting read into the hidden world of global petroleum. If you want to learn more, or simply want to understand some of the "whys" behind our current diplomacy and politics, Silverstein's book is enlightening.
Tom Fontaine
Jul 08, 2015 Tom Fontaine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought is was going to be a general hack-job on how all the oil business is evil. Was pleasantly surprised. The first couple of chapters on fixers, dictators and traders made the book worth reading.
Aug 18, 2014 K rated it liked it
I was hoping this book would be more about oil trading, supply and price fixing but instead it focused more on select individuals and regimes and how they do business. Overall, a decent read.
Jun 12, 2014 James rated it liked it
Some very strong focused chapters and some rather wooly ones that meander. An interesting quick read overall.
Sep 10, 2014 John rated it really liked it
excellent work, my only complaint is that he could've made it twice as long and covered more people.
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May 30, 2014
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Sep 19, 2016
Chuck Leduc
Chuck Leduc rated it did not like it
Aug 15, 2015
Nancy Hendrickson
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Feb 14, 2015
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May 15, 2015
Melissa Lockwood
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Sep 28, 2014
Patricia rated it it was amazing
Jun 05, 2014
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